A year-old consolidation initiative that could unite more than 100,000 agents and brokers under one MLS umbrella appears to have an official name: Bright MLS Inc.

  • MRIS and TREND have officially incorporated their consolidation project as Bright MLS Inc.
  • A public filing reveals who will be Bright MLS's CEO, chief strategy officer and chief financial officer.

A year-old consolidation initiative that could unite more than 100,000 agents and brokers under one MLS umbrella appears to have an official name: Bright MLS Inc.

Two of the nation’s biggest MLSs, Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc. (MRIS) and The Delaware Valley Real Estate Information Network Inc. (TREND), announced their intention to merge and usher in the “next era of MLS” in September 2015.

Now, Inman has found that the project, known as MLS Evolved, was officially incorporated as Bright MLS Inc. in Delaware on Sept. 27, according to Delaware’s Department of State website.

Bright MLS Inc. also submitted a public filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission yesterday, Nov. 17, notifying the SEC that common stock of Bright MLS Inc. was being exchanged for the securities of MRIS and TREND.

This appears to be a step toward consolidating the ownership of the two MLSs under Bright MLS’s roof.

Shareholder affirmation required

MRIS and TREND declined to comment for this story. MRIS said that the shareholders of both MLSs don’t convene until mid-December and the merger is dependent on their final affirmation.

“We are not going to formally comment until we obtain our final shareholder affirmations,” MRIS spokesman Jonathan Hill told Inman via email.

As of September 2015, MRIS had 25 shareholder associations and just over 40,000 members in the Mid-Atlantic region, including Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and parts of Pennsylvania, Delaware and West Virginia.

Philadelphia area-based TREND had 10 shareholder associations and about 28,000 members in 13 counties in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.

Staffing Bright MLS

Tom Phillips

Tom Phillips

The SEC filing reveals that Bright MLS is based at MRIS’s current Rockville, Maryland address. It also discloses key roles in the new company.

TREND’s current president and CEO, Tom Phillips, is Bright MLS’s president and CEO, according to the filing.

MRIS’s current president and CEO, David Charron, is Bright MLS’s secretary and chief strategy officer.

David Charron

David Charron

And Brian Donnellan, MRIS’s current chief operating officer, is Bright MLS’s treasurer and chief financial officer.

That appears to at least partially answer a question many MLSs fret about when considering a merger: whether leaders in the MLSs will keep their jobs.

Brian Donnellan

Brian Donnellan

“We believe that we are going to need all existing staff to facilitate a smooth and effective transition to the new organization,” Sharon Lukens, TREND’s director of design and communications, told Inman when the MRIS-TREND merger was first announced last year.

“As for long-term staffing requirements, that will have to be finalized in time and over time.”

For-profit vs. non-profit

Lukens also said at the time that the venture would be structured as a for-profit entity. MRIS is already for-profit, but TREND is nonprofit.

Sharon Lukens

Sharon Lukens

“That change is really so that the organization can have sufficient funds to reinvest in the business, focus on research and development, possess resources to withstand legal challenges, have the ability to recruit the right staff and ultimately operate a financially strong business,” Lukens said.

“Our initiative is intended to eliminate physical and political boundaries, expand service and price choices, and bring in economies of scale and save money for our constituents,” she added.

“The for-profit model will still focus on customer satisfaction first and certainly does not suggest a model for generating unnecessary profit.”

Won’t you join us?

From the beginning, MRIS and TREND hoped to convince neighboring MLSs to join them in a broader consolidation effort, potentially bringing their combined membership from about 68,000 to 110,000.

The nation’s largest MLS, California Regional MLS, currently has more than 80,000 agent and broker members.

Coverage area map for MRIS, TREND and neighboring MLSs

Coverage area map for MRIS, TREND and neighboring MLSs

In November 2015, the 200-member Schuylkill County Board of Realtors, which ran the Schuylkill County MLS, joined TREND with the knowledge that TREND intends to merge with MRIS.

It is unknown at this time whether the project has attracted other MLS participants.

In January, MRIS and TREND announced their intention to serve up a combined listing feed in advance of the merger for brokers that belong to both MLSs. The MLSs said the feed — and eventually, the merger — would reduce costs and hassles for brokers currently belonging to both MLSs.

Complete consolidation between the two MLSs will also bring access to listings over a larger territory in one place and, potentially, fewer MLS and association fees, MRIS and TREND said at the time.

Email Andrea V. Brambila.

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